Accidental/Deliberate Use of Personal Information

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Wednesday is the day for the Insecure Writers’ Support Group.  I’m writing this post early because I’m about to go on holiday and my iPad is refusing to charge.  (I’m sure computer equipment has a mind of its own, as well as a memory.)

This month I have managed to carry out quite a bit of editing of The Novel, although I’m nowhere near the point of submitting, or even sending to a professional editor.  I wonder why it is we always feel more secure about our writing when we’re at this stage.  I wonder, wonder, wonder…

This month we’re asked if we have ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose.  Well, my main character in The Novel lives in a town very close to me, the town where I say I live when people ask, and where I worked for twenty years – although she’s there in the 1980s, when I wasn’t, which means I have to check that schools, hospitals, roads etc were in the same place then as now.

The real problem for me is that, if I’m not careful, all my characters tend, after a few chapters, to become me.  I’m on my guard against this more than I used to be, because I’m aware of the problem.  Someone once said to me that I should let my characters just develop on their own, and become who they become, but everything comes out of my imagination, doesn’t it?  Possible strategies for dealing with it (seeing as I’m a woman) might be to write about a male leading character – perhaps.

Looking forward to reading other writers’ posts, iPad permitting.



11 thoughts on “Accidental/Deliberate Use of Personal Information

  1. I was really shocked when I entered a writing competition where you had to read 3 minutes of your book to the assembled people and judges. I hated it, never, ever again. but on top of that, one of the judges asked me, ‘what makes you think you can write from a male point of view?’ Um – isn’t that what writers do, think themselves into other people’s heads???? Sigh. Good luck!

    1. Coversely how can a man write a woman character? Should Tolstoy have written Anna Karenina?

  2. I’ve heard quite a few people say their characters are versions of themselves. I’m almost certain mine aren’t, but my writing does include some of my personality in other ways.

    1. I hope SOME of your characters aren’t you, Patsy. Mavis Forthright, for instance, who, even though she captured the reader’s sympathy straightaway, was a very sad lady.

  3. It does help to write a character that has nothing in their lives resembling yours. My last book took place on a tobacco farm in 1859. My life stayed out of the storyline.

    1. That sounds like the way to do it, Tamara, although a lot of research needed when you can’t draw on your own experience.

  4. Thanks for the post! Question for you: once you get a few chapters in and you’re like, “Why are all these characters sounding and acting alike, and… wait a second… gah! They’re all turning into me,” what do you do? How do you stop and reset and fix the issue? I’m not asking because it happens to me (I’m lying). 😉

    1. Gosh, Kathy, this is a tricky one. How do I re-set? I think that what I do is to keep hold, in my mind, of certain key characteristics for each character and pivot everything from them. For instance, my mc in the novel I’m writing now has had to fight for everything in her life, so she is not going to be put off by someone telling her she shouldn’t do something (as I would be). Hope his helps.

    1. Yes, I can see that your character is less likely to come out when writing bad guys, but you need some good guys too.

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